Wednesday, June 12, 2019

summer end quick

While I work hard on your magical vacations, my kid is currently upstairs crying because:

1) He can't ride a bus right now.

2) He can't ride an elevator right now.

3) See mommy, who is at work.

4) wants Cool-ay, of which i have no idea what that means. And yes, the first thought is "Kool-Aid", but trust me, I'm pretty sure he's not saying "Kool-Aid".

5) I won't wear a Greystone shirt to match the one he just put on, because he thinks we'll be going to McWane Center if we wear them.

6) he can't play with our suitcases, of which I've had to pile in a locked up bedroom because of this problem

7) his head hurts, which hurts because he bangs his head on anything he can find.

8) I got onto him because when I went to the restroom, he turned my computer completely off in the middle of something I was working on

This isn't a multiple choice. He's crying for all of these things simultaneously.

Also, its very quiet right now. Unsure how much time I give it before I actually go check on him.

I need summer to end quickly.

Monday, June 10, 2019

why am i still awake

I refuse to let this blog go! I just refuse to do it!

It's currently 1:38 in the morning central time, and here are some random thoughts that aren't cohesive, and aren't really related, but I just wanted to write something.

I'm doing an Autism dad podcast.  Like, I'm the dad of a kid with autism, and I'm going to do a podcast and talk about it.  Monday mornings is when it will release. I've got three episodes done, and will upload all three sometime in the next 10 days.  Hope you listen.  It's called "My Kid's Got the Autism"

I've seen "Toy Story 2" about thirty times in the last two weeks.  My kid, Campbell, loves riding Slinky Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios.  He watched the Slinky Dog Dash videos on YouTubeKids. He sees squeeze penguin Wheezy, the character at the end of the ride, and knows Wheezy was in Toy Story 2... he gets his squeaker replaced, and says "I feel a song coming on!", then launched into "You Gotta Friend in Me". So Campbell sees Wheezy in the video, then wants to see Wheezy in the movie, plus at the end of the movie, there is a scene in baggage claim where suitcases are all over the place, and now he wants to roll suitcases around.  Autism sucks.

Just saw a movie called "Set It Up" on Netflix. It's cute, but not memorable. At the end of the film, I had to ask The Lovely Steph Leann "What was the name of the movie we just watched?"

We also watched "Always Be My Maybe" on Netflix.  That movie is a jewel.  Love it, love Randall Park, love Ali Wong in this film, and the Keanu Reeves cameo (though he's in it for a good 10 minutes, so I'm not even sure its a cameo really) is priceless. And the song at the end of the movie, about punching Keanu Reeves, is nothing short of amazing.

There is water in our garage.  Signature Homes is the company that built our neighborhood in 2008, and the fact that water trickles in when a heavy rain comes is maddening. We also replaced our dishwasher last week -- under the washer when it was moved, they found two cigarette butts and a couple of food wrappers. Meaning those had been there since the day the house was built and when we moved in, in 2008.  I hate shoddy work, and companies that put up with it.

"Bad Night at the El Royale" was one of my favorite films of last year, and its now on HBO... I'm pretty excited about seeing it again, to see if I like it as much the 2nd viewing.  Is it "Bad Night"?  Or is it "Bad Times"? I honestly cannot remember

Update. It's Bad Times.

Time for bed.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

a mueller report chat

A conversation that probably happened between Robert Mueller and the Democrats when the Mueller Report came out and had no evidence of Russian Collusion...

Robert Mueller: So, we found that Trump is guil--

Dems: YES! GUILTY! WE KNEW IT!

Mueller: No, he's--

Dems: YES!! Guilty! We always knew he was guilty. He and his followers are too stupid to win that election over the honorable Hillary Clinton. She had this election stolen from her! She won the popular vote!

Mueller: You know that the Electoral College elects our president, right? Dems: Who cares. We'll get rid of that as soon as we can.

Mueller: But you've never had a problem with it until Hillary lost...

Dems: Your point?

Mueller: (shrugs) Back to the report... I think you misunderstand me. In the report there is very lit--

Dems: Sure, only a little evidence, that's fine. We only need a smidge of evidence to impeach him!

Mueller: You may want to do more inves--

Dems: No, no... we are done investigating. He's guilty. If we look further, we may find things that don't support our cause.

Mueller: So you are done with this investigation?

Dems: We don't need any more. You said he was guilty. We're ready to kick him out! Socialism, open borders, killin viable born babies and calling it the "right to choose", free college for errbody! It's time we let the world know how we really need to be ruling this place (massages fist and grins evilly)

Mueller: No, you idiots. I was trying to say in this Russian collusion, Trump is guilt FREE. There is no evidence to support any claim of such.

Dems: Wait... what? You said there was a little evidence in there...

Mueller: No, I was trying to say there was very little in there that even pointed that direction, much less connected him to Russia...

Dems: Wait. You are telling me that idiot and his redneck, racist followers actually beat Hillary fair and square?

Mueller: Yes. He won the election lawfully and by the rules set forth in our Constitution

Dems: Oh, come on, you know we only use the Constitution when it suits our narrative.

Mueller: So like, hardly ever? Dems: Whatever. This is an outrage! We demand an investigation! You aren't looking hard enough, Robby!

Mueller: Um... I looked for 2 years and spent $35 million dollars. Millions of pages of documents. Usually a special council is given a special crime to investigate... we weren't even given that. I was just told to go find something. No one gave me any limits. Trump had every right to fire me and he didn't do it. Bottom line is, Trump didn't work with Russia to rig any election.

Dems: LIAR. We demand an investigation.

Mueller: Ok, like... we just finished an investigation

Dems: We demand an investigation into your investigation to investigate what your investigation didn't find!

Mueller: Face it. Trump won because Hillary sucks. As a candidate. And frankly, as a person.

Dems: NO! HE DID IT! HE DID SOMETHING... He colluded... with... Russia to collude the election. He election colluded with the Soviets to elect... I mean, to collude... whatever. HE IS GUILTY! We won't stop until we find out what happened!

Mueller: You mean like Cory Booker swore to not stop until he discovered the truth behind Kavanaugh with Dr Ford? And how we haven't heard anything about it since?

Dems: No, we actually care about this issue. We'll tell the media! They'll keep reporting that the Mueller report is bunk, and that there is obviously something there.

Mueller: But you have no proof. The media has never really had any proof of what they have been reporting

Dems: Bob... (stares blankly) When has a lack of evidence ever stopped any charge we make? Or any life we ruin?

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

the super bowl was all fine

A few rambling, disjointed thoughts on the Super Bowl, of which I didn't do a running diary or really watch all of...

So, the game happened. And it was fine. And that's a hot take, because most of the world has condemned it as the most boring game they've ever seen, and much of those condemners also have shared similar feelings about Maroon 5's performance. 

Both were fine.

Full disclosure, I saw kickoff, a few of the commercials, and then The Lovely Steph Leann asked me the question that puts countries at war, bucks up internal strife, sometimes destroys marriages... "What do you want to eat for dinner?"  The Aunt was here, keeping Campbell, so despite the Super Bowl being on, I told her that we could go out and have dinner.  We ended up at Urban Cookhouse, and it was a win-win because nothing happened while I was gone. When I returned home, Adam Levine was singing something onstage.  I left the Aunt and The Lovely Steph Leann (and the kid) downstairs and came to my room to watch the game streaming on my iPad.

The game itself was a defensive battle... and yeah, it was sort of boring, but that's not the fault of the Patriots or the Rams, that's the fault of our own need for excitement and action.  If everything happened exactly the same, except one team scored a single touchdown in each quarter (1st quarter, 3-3, 2nd quarter Pats 10-3, 3rd quarter tied 10-10, final score 17-10), the complaints would be much quieter, because there would have been some scoring.  But, like me at all four high school proms I attended, the scoring was minimal... which is sort of a bad analogy, because  nothing happened for me at any point of any of my proms.

Four, you ask?  Cindy Howell to my junior and senior proms, and when I was a freshman in college, I went with Brandy S. and Cheryl H to their junior and senior proms, respectively. Add that to four fraternity formals, and I've spent a fortune in tuxedos. 

Back to the game.

It was fine. I didn't have a problem with it, and I was rooting for the Patriots, they won, went to bed.

I know, I know, you probably hate the Patriots, cause they are cheaters and Julian Edelman (the Super Bowl MVP) is on PEDs and blah blah blah. 

Tom Brady is the GOAT. At this point. He's been to 11% of all Super Bowls that have existed, and has won 8% of them. The man has 6 championship rings in what might be the hardest playoff to get through -- its a single elimination tournament. The NBA and MLB are tough too -- you have full on series, which means you may play upwards of 25+ additional games en route to the title, whereas with NFL, you play a max of four... but four brutal games that if you stumble in any of them, no matter how explosive you are (hello Rams), you are out. At least in the NBA and MLB series, you can afford a bad game and still survive.

If you want to pinpoint the worst parts of the game, you have to look at the LA Rams... Jared Goff played horribly, Todd Gurley was inexplicably missing from the action despite being probably the best player on the entire field, the punter got way more playing time than any punter should get in a Super Bowl, and it they just looked overwhelmed by the moment.

And even with that, the low score, the Rams being off kilter, the Pats not blowing up the scoreboard, it was still a game that you weren't sure who was going to win until there was maybe a minute or two left, so there is something to be said for that. I think everyone thought one of the teams, likely the Pats but maybe the Rams, would finally open it up on the 2nd half, or surely the 4th quarter, maybe some offensive explosion where we'd hear Tony Romo say stuff like "47 total points scored in the 4th quarter, a Super Bowl 4th quarter record!" but no, we got none of that.  We got a touchdown.

As far as the halftime show goes, I don't know why any artist would ever accept a Super Bowl gig, especially from here on out.  The gold standard seems to be Prince, but that might be because it was in the last decade or so, and "Prince" is synonymous with "Legend", but I barely remember it. I only remember my friend Paula being all excited because she's a child of the 80s... I remember the Timberlake/Janet Jackson halftime show, for obvious nippy reasons, but I can't recall specifics of nearly any other halftime show... I can't even tell you who performed last year.  When did Lady Gaga perform?  Were the Rolling Stones in there somewhere? 

Maroon 5 came out, they sang, they wore weird outfits, someone named Travis Scott came out and rapped, then Big Boi arrived... Big Boi is the half of OutKast not named Andre 3000, which prompted me to tweet that the NFL should have backed up the Brinks truck to Andre's lap and paid whatever it took to get OutKast together -- I mean, they are in Atlanta for gravy's sake, this is OutKast's hometown. I need some "Mrs Jackson", I am for real.

But nonetheless, what I liked about Maroon 5 was they came out, they sang, they left. No protests, no kneeling, no statements, They did their job, got their check (one that they donated to a children's charity, by the way) and went home. The fear from many was that there would be some sort of statement made in defense of Colin Kaepernick... and let's be clear, I'm firmly of the belief that Kap is a total idiot. And the reasons are several, and none of them include kneeling for the national anthem.  Kap and the supposed blackball of Kap are the reason many artists chose not to perform... which brings me to my earlier question of why anyone would choose to do this. 

We are in a Woke society, where everyone is offended by everything at this point -- even the commercials tried to tiptoe around comedy so as not to make anyone upset or triggered. This morning, I read another article that stated how some professor at some college has studied Mary Poppins and concluded that yes, the movie is racist. Why? Because in one scene Mary has soot on her face... then chooses to add a little more. And that makes it Blackface. You know, not because she's singing and dancing on the rooftops of London with a crew of chimney sweeps.  Blackface. 

So Maroon 5 plays it safe... and still gets roasted. Had they come out and Adam Levine stripped his shirt off (which he did, and there were comparisons to how Janet Jackson got destroyed for showing a nipple, while Adam in his male privilege gets away with it... I read that from one particular SJW chick who I find to be quite the blowhard) and suddenly put on a Kap jersey, or maybe had a quick 10 second musical sequence with a riff from the National Anthem which Adam kneeled -- the left would have gone crazy. Brave! Courageous! He Gets It! And the right would have hated it. 

Dunno what he might have done to have the right cheer while the left demands his resignation, but they played it safe and both sides hated it.  No win situation.

But it was fine. The game was fine, the halftime show was fine.

Okay, okay, I hated all of it.  Will you not unfriend me now?





Friday, February 01, 2019

they shall not grow old

I have to give full credit to my buddy Clay Shaver up in Detroit for really pushing me to watch more documentaries... since I met the guy in 2015 (well, in person... I've known him online since 2013... hashtag Love at AOL) we've discuss many a movie, and many of them have been documentary recommendations from him.

And 2018 was a strong, strong year for documentaries. "Won't You Be My Neighbor" is currently occupying my top spot in my mental list of "Biggest Oscar Snubs", and just as good -- and just as snubbed -- is the Gilda Radner biopic "Love, Gilda". On my agenda to watch in the coming days are "Minding the Gap" and "Three Identical Strangers", both films I've heard rave reviews on.

Image result for we shall not grow old
But I watched something last night that I just had to talk about, a documentary from Peter Jackson (the Lord of the Rings Jackson). He's a World War I buff and a project he's been working on for a while is this documentary. For me, it just kind of came out of nowhere, as I started seeing trailers for it at the end of December, leaving me wanting to see it.

I saw the Thursday night preview, so all following showing may or may not have what I was able to see -- a quick 2 minute intro from Peter Jackson, the hour-forty movie itself, then following the credits, a 25 minute "making of" feature, which is well worth staying for.

Jackson and his team pulled together over 100 hours of film footage and 600+ hours of audio, paring it down into what you see.  The narration of the entire movie is made up of voices of the veterans, each giving one or two lines at a time, sharing their stories. There are at least 120 different voices, so good luck trying to keep track, but the audio goes along with the footage you see on the screen (I doubt you'll much, if any, film of a soldier, with that soldier doing the narration).

Concentrating on the British war experience, the film takes you through the opening stages of the war, all the war propaganda and recruitment, then into the boot camp.  You spend a good chunk of the film in the front line trenches, those huge ditches dug at jagged angles all through the countryside (we are in Belgium for much of this), with the Germans a mere 100 or so yards away.  Bombs constantly going off, the narration voices tell us how they knew if you stood up too tall, or weren't paying attention, you could easily catch a bullet from a sniper.

Who knew that lice was as big a problem as the fear of bombs and bullets? The sanitation in the trench was pretty much zero, as shown by their toilet set up (imagine a pole on brackets, where you sit and take a dump, sitting next to four or five other guys doing the same thing). The rats were everywhere, feasting on scraps the dead bodies, bodies they couldn't do a lot with because they couldn't really risk going outside of the trench very far.

This is a remarkably done scene when you learn the lengths that Jackson's
team went to to figure out what the officer was reading (left). This pic gives
you an idea of the original footage vs the restored/colorized footage.
Remember, this was silent film, so any sounds made were done in this
documentary's production.

There is also a memorizing 15 minute sequence where the narration voices talk about the times when the soldiers would rush the Germans, the hand to hand combat, shooting people at will, even one voice cracking as he tells of shooting a soldier at point blank range, one who was mortally wounded and screaming in pain.


And finally, we see the terrible way the British soldiers were treated when they returned home upon the war ending.  No one would hire them, people were not interested in finding out their stories, they were basically ignored or treated as if they didn't just fight to save the world.

The after-credits feature is also a real gem, showing how Jackson and his team would scan the footage, do close ups to allow for panning, how they made the choice to colorize the film, how they synced up voices with what you see on screen and so many other decisions made to make this film come to life. The soldiers in the movie are never named, their ranks are never identified, its just a inventive and incredible way to show life in a British WWI trench, with pictures taken from 100 year old copies of War Illustrated to show the combat scenes.

Be aware, though it's not over the top, some of it is graphic, mostly through pictures of killed soldiers lying on the battlefield, many of which are missing parts of their heads, their faces, limbs and so on. And one guy's foot is totally jacked up due to gangrene. I mean, really jacked.  Yuck.

I loved this movie, and its sad to me that it's not Oscar eligible... they missed the submission deadline for this year's Academy Award eligibility, and because it's a 2018 film, they won't be eligible for next year's awards either. Which is sad because this was one of the 1 or 2 best documentaries from last year that I've seen, and even though its the 22nd "new to me" movie I've seen in 2019, its the only one that I give a 4-star rating.

It's worth noting that Jackson said he didn't involve historians in this movie because he wanted the veterans to tell the story through their own eyes. "It's a film made by a non-historian, for you, the non-historian"

And it 's worth the time.

And it's worth staying through the credits just for that ending song.

Friday, January 18, 2019

two docs, one fyre

There are two things I really enjoy in my entertainment life... pop culture and pop culture documentaries.  So when I got the word that Netflix was doing a documentary on Fyre Fest, I was hooked before I saw the first shot.

I checked my Just Watch app on Tuesday and was totally confused, as Hulu showed a documentary called "Fyre Fraud". I wondered if Netflix had loaned it's doc to Hulu for some reason, or maybe I misunderstood which streaming service would have it... nope, turns out, Hulu undercut Netflix and released their own doc a few days before Netflix could.  All's fair in love and docs, I guess (after Netflix bragged on Hulu during the Golden Globes!  Shade!)

Two docs about an event that most people had forgotten about
Here's the set up... In 2017, Fyre Fest was this massive paradise event down on a Bahamian island where thousands of people would converge for two weekends, see musical artists like Blink 182 and Ja Rule, hang out in cabanas and yachts and possibly meet up with the celebs and see lots of "social media influencers".  I am not sure that job existed 10 years ago, but apparently its a thing now.

Influencers like Bella Hadid and hundreds of others posted and promoted, including posting up a simple orange square, then telling people that Fyre Fest was the place to be.  In fact, Kendall Jenner was paid $250K just for posting said square.

But the event itself was a complete fiasco of the highest proportions.  Nothing was built, no musical acts were there, the infrastructure of the island wasn't stable, there was no food and water, barely any plumbing, and those yachts and cabanas turned out to be wet mattresses inside of FEMA tents that were left from Hurricane Matthew. Hundreds of teens and millennials and up were stranded on this small island with no place to go and no way to get home. And it got ugly fast.

So I saw "Fyre Fraud", the Hulu doc, first.  And it is fantastic.  Focusing on William McFarland, who was the man behind Fyre Fest, it follows him from his early days as a scam artist up until he was making real money conning people. And it all led to promising 1000s of people that the biggest concert around would take place in the Caribbean, with all the big names and social media influencers you could imagine... and it was both sad and hilarious at the same time, watching the Fyre Fest team shake their heads about the impossible position they were put in.

This one orange square posted and reposed 1000s of times helped sell out
Fyre Fest, including selling yacht and beach home spaces that didnt exist
Hulu seems to not only point a finger at Billy McFarland, but also a few of his associates, including the Jerry Media group he partnered with, and even some to rapper Ja Rule, who was involved as well. Another thing that has some people irked with Hulu was that they paid him to appear in their doc, but to me, it was worth it to watch him look so uncomfortable on camera, and say a lot of things without saying really anything at all -- he is obviously well rehearsed in how to dance around answers and never admit to anything. In short, he is a total scumbag.

So then, Netflix releases it's documentary today (Friday Jan 18), and I'm pretty much pumped as can be for it. Officially titled "FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened", it was actually made in conjunction with Jerry Media.  That did send up a red flag to me, as how unbiased can it be if the people in one documentary are helping to tell the story in the other?

Well, the Netflix doc (also fantastic) points it's Spotlight of Blame directly at Billy McFarland and doesn't let up. It jumps right into the Fyre Fest planning, starting 5 months before the festival.  Keep in mind that festivals of these size takes a year, maybe 2 years to put together, and that's likely after a plan is already in place.... McFarland thought he could do it in 5 months, and that's as he was shopping for an island to purchase.  Yes, this dude thought of the festival first, started promoting it, then went to buy an island for it. (purchasing an island once owned by Pablo Escobar. Yep. That's a true story)

Because you know it's a disaster, you watch with a sense of anticipation, knowing this house of cards that McFarland is trying to build is about to crash, but you just aren't sure exactly when... and it gets worse than you'd think. To the point where one of McFarland's assistants was instructed to go meet with a Bahama official to get a trailer full of bottled water released, and was told to... well, take one for the team and do something pretty unbelievable to get that water. It's mind blowing how many bad decisions, either knowingly or not, were made in this thing.

Both docs give you time frames of "5 months until..." and "6 weeks until...." and "5 days until..." and you just marvel at all the things that aren't done and won't be completed -- and how McFarland just keeps moving forward.

He wasn't featured in the Netflix doc, but his partners were, and they all tell the tale of how promising it sounded but how it quickly became unfathomable that it would happen. Netflix's "Fyre" is much more in depth than Hulu's "Fire Fest", not only in what happened on that island...

(one attendee talked about how when the sun went down, "the camaraderie was over", the looting began, tents on fire and so on. And honestly, I am shocked that neither documentary mentioned anything about sexual assault... either it didn't happen, or they just didn't report that)

...but also what happened legally when it call came crashing down .

(cut to Billy sitting in a massive NYC penthouse, with a small staff, sending out emails to people to sell them VIP passes to things like MET Gala, Victoria's Secret fashion ship, and meet n greets with Taylor Swift... it's important to note that the MET Gala is invite only, Victoria's never has VIP passes and TayTay doesn't do meet n greets.)

Someone in the Netflix doc makes the point
that it took 100s of models and celebs posting
an orange square to build Fyre Fest, but only
one picture of a cheese sandwich to bring it
all crashing down. 
After discussion the documentary on social media, I'm a little surprised on how many people have never heard of Fyre Fest, as it was a massive story in 2017.

Admittedly, I knew little about it as it led up to the event, because I didn't pay any attention to Bella Hadid or any Jenner or Kardashian or anyone else you could call a Social Media Influencer, so both of these movies really helped tell the story, both in their own way.  You could layer them atop one another and you'd get mostly different interviews with much of the same perspective. Hulu has one of the island workers who was trying to spearhead construction, while Netflix talks to one of the local restaurant owners.  The owner of the now infamous Twitter account @FyreFraud (his name escapes me) was in both movies, telling the same type of tales.

Both movies also show you the sheer power of social media, and the power of its users... when reports began to leak out about Fyre Fest, including the infamous picture of the cheese on toast, which really solidified everyone's fears and suspicions that Fyre Fest was truly a fraud.

Plus the ugly side of social media comes out when post after post is shown of people reveling in the misery of "rich kids", some of which sold all of their possessions,  their cars, quit their jobs and cashing out college funds  to come to the Bahamas.  As comedian Ron Funches says, "If you had $1000s of dollars to go on a trip to see Blink 182, that's on you.  That's Darwinism at it's finest." Indeed.

If I had a preference, I'd pick Netflix's version, only because it is deeper and more in-depth about the festival itself, but I loved how Hulu gave you the backstory on McFarland's previous scams, including the creation of Magnesis, which Netflix barely touches on.

See the both if you can.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

top ten books of 2018 (the final four)

Okay, so in this two blog posts that turned into four blog posts somehow (because why say in 500 words what we can say in 2400?), here are the final four books in my list of 2018's favorites.

But first... the links to previous stuff...

The Not Top Ten Books of 2018
Top Ten of 2018, Part 1 
Top Ten of 2018, Part 2 (review of "The Six")


The 4th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018
"DON'T BULLSH*T YOURSELF: CRUSH THE EXCUSES THAT ARE HOLDING YOU BACK" by Jon Taffer

Excuse makers seem to put more time into crafting the perfect justification for their actions (or inactions) that into working and succeeding. We all do it. And it's time for us to stop. Excuses are the common denominator of failure. - Jon Taffer 

So, I'm a big fan of the Spike TV now Paramount TV show "Bar Rescue"...

First, does anyone else remember The Nashville Network?  America's country home? I remember watching  the nightly show "Nashville Now" hosted by Ralph Emery, featuring some puppet named Shotgun, while the country stars of the 80s and early 90s appeared, stars like Marie Osmond and Dan Seals and Alabama and Vern Gosdin and so on. This sounds like a blog post on it's own, so we'll come back to this later.

Anyway, "Bar Rescue" is this reality show that features business man and bar expert Jon Taffer who goes into failing bars and restaurants and helps turn them around with what can only be described as tough love. Usually, the bars are nearly bankrupt because of poor management, so Jon yells at them to get their act together, has his compatriots teach them bartending and cooking skills, and overhauls the bars.  The level of success is debateable, as I've read stories of how some of the rescued bars still fail, but overall, the show is awesome.

Taffer offers the same level of pull-no-punches instructions to the readers as he does to the Bar Rescue viewers, but this time talks about the things that get in our way and keeps us from being successful -- fear, knowledge (or lack of), time, circumstances, ego, and scarcity -- and it all boils down to a simple "Stop making excuses and get your crap done."

I found the direct line of coaching to be pretty refreshing, and I think this is a great book for anyone who needs to pull a Toby Keith (put a boot in your a**, its the American way) and get their stuff done.

The 3rd Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018
"REPUBLICANS BUY SNEAKERS TOO: HOW THE LEFT IS RUINING SPORTS WITH POLITICS" by Clay Travis
Image result for republicans buy sneakers too
"Sports united us and the games themselves entertained us. They helped to keep us sane amid an increasingly insane political and global environment. Until, that is, everything changed and ESPN, the most powerful source in sports media, decided to turn into MSESPN, the nation's most far-left-wing mix of politics and sports, and every other sports media entity followed their lead" - Clay Travis

Okay, first up, you may hate Clay Travis. And if you do, then keep scrolling, because I'm obviously going to talk about how much I liked his book. So don't @ me.  (is that what the young folk are saying? Don't at me? Only using the @ sign? Is that like a clapback?  I'm so old now)

I don't listen to Travis' morning show, but I do listen to the (mostly) daily 30 minute Outkick the Show podcast, which is a humorous take on sports and news of the day.  Travis will tell you himself, and has many times, that he worked on the Bill Clinton campaign in the 90s, and voted for Obama twice, so he's not a Republican, but he hates the hypocrisy that is all up in our politics from both sides of the aisle, and this book spells out much of that.

If you listen to him on podcasting, you'll know his take on how ESPN let Jemele Hill slide on something awful she said on Twitter, while firing Curt Schilling over something he said in private, and the media embrace of Lebron's claim that someone vandalized his home (no evidence) and Michael Bennett's claim to have been racially profiled in Vegas (evidence to the contrary) and some stuff about Trump and how ESPN has gone full-on left wing.  And a chapter on Michael vs LeBron politically, which lends to the title of the book, based on something that Michael Jordan is alledged to have said.

Think he's a punk and full of crap?  Well, Clay Travis called the ESPN ratings collapse two years ago, as we are beginning to see some of that now.  And he's made several more predictions of that kind, and they've come to fruition.

I like the guy, as he makes me laugh. I don't agree with many things he says, but some things are dead on. And if you like him, you'll enjoy the book like I did... and if you don't... well, like I said, keep scrolling.

Image result for the art of workThe 2nd Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018
"THE ART OF WORK: A PROVEN PATH TO DISCOVERING WHAT YOU WERE MEANT TO DO" by Jeff Goins

"This is not a book about miracles. It is a book about finding your calling, about how you discover what you were born to do. A calling is that thing you can't not do, an answer to the age-old question, 'What should I do with my life?'" - Jeff Goins

I've been a fan of Goins for a while, especially since I finally met the guy at The Thing conference last May. He basically writes about the creative process, including writing actually about writing, with books like "Real Artists Don't Starve" and the aptly named "You Are a Writer" (which I really enjoyed).  

This is a book about finding your calling, but more than that, finding out what you were meant to do -- including being a writer.  Each chapter is based on a theme, from Awareness to Discovery to Profession and so on, with sharing a real story from each theme.

It goes through subtle, and not so subtle, hints in life about embracing failure... when trying isn't good enough... learning from unexpected teachers... building a legacy and much more.  Ultimately, it tries to help you answer the simple question of "What were you meant to do?"

For some folks, you'll find an answer, for others, you'll be reassured of what you are doing now (like me), and maybe for some, you'll be just as lost as before, but with more wisdom and soundbites in your head.

And of course, it doesn't hurt that Goins pulls a great theme from the Michael J Fox magnum opus "The Secret of My Success" to discuss happiness and opportunity. And if you really want to know what the Secret of My Success is, then just ask the 80s band Night Ranger... "The secret to my success is working TWENTY FIVE HOURS A DAAAAAAAAAAAY"

THE BEST BOOK I READ FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2018:
"THIS IS MARKETING: YOU CAN'T BE SEEN UNLESS YOU LEARN TO SEE" by Seth Godin

"Marketing is the act of making change happen. Making is insufficent. You haven't made an impact until you've changed someone. You can do this by creating and then relieving tension. By establishing cultural norms. By seeing status roles and helping to change them (or maintain them). But first, you need to see it. Then you need to choose to work with human beings to help them find what they are looking for" - Seth Godin

Image result for this is marketing
Not that I have a bookshelf full of marketing books, but I've read a few here and there, and can tell you hands down, this is the best marketing book I've ever read. Without question. And that even surpasses some of Godin's other marketing books.

Quite simply, the book is about storytelling. And being someone who sees the needs of others, those you are trying to serve, as you market to them the product or service you want to serve them with.  Its the seeing that most people miss.  According to Godin, "Marketing isn't a battle, and it's not a war. It isn't even a contest. It's the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem."

The book is a tweet factory, as I felt like I could have tweeted out 3,000 statements and one liners from the book itself, as it uses various examples from companies both big and small in marketing ideas.

I don't even know what to tell you about this book other than if you have a small business, or a large one, and your marketing scheme doesn't seem to connect -- then get it. The audio is great, as Godin reads it in his dry tone, but I'm really wanting the workbook now that will go with it.

And I want to read it again, this time to absorb more of it and try to not just read, but soak it in.

Well done, Mr. Godin. Well done.

And there you are... the best books I read for the first time in 2018...






Friday, January 11, 2019

top ten books of 2018: the six by kb hoyle

Before you hit the top five, you can check out the rundown of other books read in 2018, and the first part of my Top Ten books of 2018... and this was going to be numbers 5 through number 1, but I ended up writing 700 words on this one book, my favorite fiction book of the year, and thought it deserved to be its own blogpost.

The Fifth Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018
This one had been a long time coming... as I mentioned before, I don't really dig on YA Fantasy.  I am only 2 books into the Chronicles of Narnia, I've made a life decision that I'll likely never read any of the Lord of the Rings books (and from all accounts, the 2.5 hour, or 14 hour directors cut, of the movies serves the purpose) and while I really enjoyed the first two Hunger Games, the third was lacking. Heck, one Divergent book and I was ready to throw myself off of a bridge -- and don't even mention the Twilight crap.

So enter K.B. Hoyle with this book series called "The Gateway Chronicles", and the lead off book, "The Six".  I resisted this for a while... I own it on Kindle, and I started it once or twice, got a few pages in and put it down. Nothing to do with the writing, as it starts with normal kids at a normal summer camp, but more of me thinking "once this gets going and dives into Narnia Divergent Maze Runner territory, can I finish it?"  And I begged KB to put this on audio, asked for it for years.  Finally, probably for me -- yes, likely because she wanted me to read it, she commissioned the audio... thank you, KB, and to the fans who wanted audio, you are welcome, glad I could get it done for you.  

So I started it, and lo and behold if I wasn't sucked right in. Darcy is your lead, a selfish 13 year old (I could have just said "13 year old") who attends a summer camp with a few kids that are friendly enough, but have a hard time accepting her... or she makes it hard for them to do so, including the chubby kid Samantha, who is the definition of a "good friend who does not give up on anyone". Darcy and Sam find a portal to another world, bring the others along and suddenly, we are in a world called Alitheia. And as you'd expect, she and her friends find themselves in a position to save Alitheia from sinister forces that wish to destroy it for bad purposes.

The book is descriptive, maybe to the point of over descriptive sometimes, but it paints a clear picture of the wonder and rich beauty of the new world; however, it's the character development that drives the story.  Darcy, Samantha, Amelia, Louis, Dean, and Perry are "The Six", and to me, its Samantha that's the linchpin of the group. When Darcy screws up and the others consider her an outcast, it's Sam that stands in the gap... the narrator, Dollcie Webb, does a great job overall, though at first, I found her interpretation of Sam annoying -- but then realized that's how KB intended for us to feel about Sam.  Annoyed, but amazed at her loyalty and friendship regardless. Without Sam, Darcy would end up alone in Alitheia and the story would stall.  We don't get enough of Louis and Dean, but I am guessing they'll have much bigger roles in the coming books.

The end of the book wrapped up a little too neatly for me, though (and this is sort of a spoiler but not really, but sort of) the book being told from Darcy's perspective, so as with Louis & Dean, it may be another case of  "a little bit now, with much more to come later".  If you read it, you'll know what I mean. 

Caution on going to KB's website... as you read a brief overview of each book, including the next in the series, "The Oracle" (which I'm told will be on audio soon), when you get to Book 3's brief description of "The White Thread", there is a major spoiler from Book 2.  Proceed with caution.

Anyway, if you have tween and teen readers and up looking for something clean, compelling and not corny, but actually with a good story, try The Gateway Chronicles.

And KB has written a crap ton of books, including another series called "The Breeder Cycle", which I have no clue or concept about, but apparently steers more Young Adult Dystopian.

On a more personal level, I gotta give props to KB Hoyle, who has always been willing to engage in book conversation, writing chat every now and then, and successfully pulled off something that I can only assume is very hard:  World Building in a story. She truly is one of my writing heroes. 


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

top ten books of 2018 (the first part)

If you haven't read the 2018 book recap, then you can click here. If you have read it, or haven't and don't care, then please proceed...

So, while I didn't hit my goal of 50 books in 2018, I did manage 42.  So while making the top ten out of 42 books seem easier than out of 50, it's still an honor that authors should be proud of.  They should print out this particular blog and frame it, putting it on the wall above the mantle, next to the pics of the kids, bride in the wedding dress, and that odd picture of the family at the lake where Uncle Jake has his eyes closed but you went with it because then-3 year old Ashley Morgan was finally looking at the camera.  Uncle Jake, deal with it.

But first... an honorable mention.

PET SEMATARY by Stephen King. The reason this isn't a top ten inclusion and actually an honorable mention is because I've read this before.  Yes, it was back circa 1988 in paperback, in anticipation of the new movie coming out with Dale Midkaff and Herman Munster, but still, I've read it.  
The original cover art, from the
hardcover book I had when I was
a member of the Stephen King book club

When I started with Audible.com back in what. 2010, I started to collect Stephen King books all along, as the new were released and the old were re-released, probably on audio for the first time.  Firestarter! Christine! IT! The Stand! So many books out, and a ton I've finally read through (though I'm still trying to get into Bag of Bones...) but the one outstanding was Pet Sematary.  Why was it not on audio?  Where was it?  Cujo finally came out. Then Desperation and Insomnia.  Needful Things. All four parts of Four Past Midnight... but no Pet Sematary??  Then, in late 2017, they announced that it would be coming out in March, and was pumped.  I pre-ordered, and on the morning of March 18th, 2018, I uploaded it to my iPod and began the journey to Ludlow with the Creed family, and onto the Micmac burial ground where you can bury your deceased pet and see them again in a day or so... only, just not the same.  Michael C. Hall narrates it, and it's thrilling.  Even though I knew what was coming, and I knew what was in the last paragraph, I still had goose bumps.  

I loved this book, and its one of my all time King Favorites.

The 10th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
"LIVE FROM NEW YORK: THE COMPLETE, UNCENSORED HISTORY OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE AS TOLD BY ITS STARS, WRITERS, AND GUESTS" by James Miller and Tom Shales
I have the print copy of the book, and have read some of it, but its so long, I never got through it.  They released the audio some years ago, but it contained the word that no true Audiophile wants to hear: "Abridged".  So I listened to the audio, all 8 hours of it, and it was good.  But then in June, the whole shebang came out, all 28 hours and 18 minutes of it. I dove in, and it's wonderful.  

I'm a big fan of oral history recollections, where the whole story is told in anecdotes and bits by individuals involved, and this is SNL from before the show ever started, even to the early days of Lorne Michaels, up until the 2013 season (I think), with stories and remarks from the original team, like Chevy Chase, Dan Akyroyd, Lorraine Newman and Garrett Morris to the 80s with Joe Piscapo, Charles Grodin, Martin Short, and Jeanine Garafalo, to the late 80s hey day with Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, and Victoria Jackson all the way through the Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, and beyond to modern day. Guests like Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Peyton Manning and more are sprinkled all the way through, telling stories like Damon Wayans' infamous on-air F-Bomb to drunken drug parties to losing it on camera to the emotional broadcast after 9/11.  

Whether you like it or not, especially nowadays, you may love, like, hate or even hate-like the show, but one cannot deny the impact it had on television and entertainment history. It's long, but it's worth the ride. 

The 9th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
The book opens up with a high school coach, beloved across his town, suddenly arrested on the field -- in front of the fans, his friends, his family, arrested for a horrible, despicable crime.  Seems obvious he did it, right? Witnesses, evidence, fingerprints.  But how could such a beloved coach, father, friend do such a heinous thing?  This is so early in the book, you know there is more to come... and there is.  

The first part of the book is a tense thriller, with unknowing twists and things you know are for sure that turns out to be nothing you know at all.  It slowly morphs into a supernatural horror for the back half, though not so horror filled that it keeps you up at night.  It even includes a smart, awkward female investigator named Holly -- and if you've read King's "Mr Mercedes" trilogy, you will know all about Holly.  

Great build to the end, great climax and satisfying finish. Because it's one of his longer books, its not one I'll return to anytime soon, but "The Outsider" is a fine outing for the horror master. 

I always love a good cover, and this was
one of my faves of the year
The 8th Best Book I Read for the First Time in 2018...
"ONE OF US IS LYING" by Karen McManus
I don't read a ton of fiction, mostly because I'm more fascinated with real life stories, be it origin stories of SNL or business acumen, so if it's not Stephen King or John Grisham (I know, boring choices) or a few select others, it really has to grab me.  And this one did.

A jock, an outcast, a popular chick, an introvert, a gossip king... they all end up in detention.  And if this sounds very Breakfast Clubby, you aren't too far off, but in the movie, Bender didn't end up dead. Being the only other people in the room, the other four students are instantly suspects in the case. The story progresses, told from each student's perspective, allowing you to piece together the truth based on everything they are telling you. And though I'm someone who is pretty good at figuring out where certain stories are going, this one had me guessing until the book was nearly over (I did grasp the ending before I got to the ending, so that's a point for me).  I'll admit the ending wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be, but overall, I really had a good time here.


The 7th Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018...
"GONE IN THE DARK: ONE WOMAN'S OBSESSIVE SEARCH FOR THE GOLDEN STATE KILLER" by Michelle McNamara
In addition to not reading a ton of fiction, I also don't go through a ton of true crime.  Truth be told, I love true crime (I've read every single one of Kathryn Casey's Texas murder true crime books, save for the latest which isn't on audio), but I'm picky about it. I need it to be smart, I need it to be interesting, to stay away from trashy and cheap, and keep it intelligent while breaking down things that I only know about from watching 15 seasons of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

(which by the way, had one of the worst endings in any series ever -- they pretty much just dumped on Gil Grissom, who made that entire show, and having him and Sara Sidle speed away in a boat? Stupid.  Where was I?)

So McNamara spent years investigating, and yeah, obsessing over a serial killer in California known as the Golden State Killer, and this entire book is that chase.  Bit by bit of evidence, discovery, interviews and all well told and well laid out.  She passed away from an illness a few years ago, and never got to see the actual arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, who committed more than 50 sexual assaults, 100+ robberies and 13 murders from 1974 to 1986.  This book is credited with helping to bring him to justice, which is pretty fantastic, and a great legacy.  Her widowed husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, gives a great afterward, filling in the blanks from the time of her death to the capture of DeAngelo.

This, plus the book mentioned in the previous book post, "Evil Has a Name", is a great 1-2 punch for the Golden State Killer case.

The 6th Best Book I Read For the First Time in 2018...
"SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY MAYBE" by Lauren "Lorelei Gilmore" Graham
I mean, I have to start off by telling you that it might take Lauren Graham writing "I hate Republicans" on a napkin 17,000 times for me to not like what she writes... so I went into this knowing I'd likely enjoy it.

Thankfully, in this debut novel from 2013, she doesn't do that... she actually writes a sweet, breezy story set in 1995, in the middle of my favorite decade.  Franny has set herself a 3 year deadline to succeed as an actress in New York City.  Well, that was 30 months ago, and she has 6 months remaining before she either finds some modicum of success or packs up her stuff and moves back home to her family.

Her roommates Jane and Dan are there to support her as she goes back and forth on what to do. Maybe she should just move home, as her ex-boyfriend is back home and would take care of her. But fellow actor James has also caught her eye.

And yes, this likely blurs the line in breezy story and Chick Book, and maybe it sorta is, but I love the quick wit and snappy delivery of the words, and I related to, and liked, the dreams and the deadlines and everything else that comes with jobs right out of college.

Of course this is a long post, so let's break it up into two... next part up tomorrow

Friday, January 04, 2019

the not top ten best books of 2018

Every year, I have full intention on reading more than the previous year... with 25 books in 2013, I knocked out 35 in 2014.  In 2015, I managed to get to 40, with 43 the next year, and 45 last year. So when I made my goal of 50, I just knew I'd get there.

In fact, I wrote this on January 1, 2018, about my new goal of 50...

...there will be a handful of graphic novels and short plays I want to read as well. I've got a handful of Neil Labute, August Wilson & David Mamet scripts at the ready. The first book of the year completed will likely be "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King & Owen King. Its a 25 hour audiobook, and coming into January 1, I was 11 hours in.

Well, I was sorta right. I did get through a couple of Mamet scripts, and finished "Sleeping Beauties" as well, all 25 hours of it. 

But I didn't get to 50. I did try... but I just didn't get there. And I don't feel bad about it.  See, anyone who knows me knows I do audiobooks, and I did 42 of those this year... 363 hours of listening, which equals out to just over 15 straight days of listening.  That's a ton, and I feel proud of that.

Because I'm a total nerd, I did my Excel sheet of stats to see what my totals look like... if you add in the 15 audiobooks I listened to in 2010 to 2012, plus the book totals I mentioned earlier, I'm basically looking at 237 books in 9 years.  Now, I have some friends who average anywhere from 75 to 100 books per year, so they look at my paltry 237 and think "that's nothing", but honestly, that's massive.  Averaging 26 per year, I think I did more in one year than I read from around 1995 to 2010.  I love reading, but never had time.  Thus, Audiobooks rule.

Anyway, the point here is to list the books I did read this year.  I do have a Top Ten, but I wanted to give a quick run through of the other 32... 

Image result for stephen king sleeping beauties
Great concept, great story... typical King by being very,
very long
(1) "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King and (his son) Owen King.  Using that knack for coming up with scenarios that you'd never even consider to be a plot, the Kings write a book about this unusual phenomenon where women all over the world go to sleep. The book partly chronicles what happens with only men in charge, and then also to this other world, where the women all end up and start their own society. Lots of subplots, lots of entanglement, and would land just outside my top ten.

Also by Stephen King, a novella called (2) "Elevation", a strange little story about a guy who starts losing weight.  Lest it sound like "Thinner", this guy also starts losing mass; this plot also wraps around a subplot about the man's neighbors, who happen to run a diner... which townsfolk don't like, because the diner-owners are lesbians. Strange ending. 

Neil Simon's (3) "Brighton Beach Memoirs"(4) "Broadway Bound" are part of the "Eugene Trilogy", which also contains "Biloxi Blues", which I loved. Eugene continues to come of age in the early to mid-1900s, filled with heartache, success, failure, crushes, family strife and more.

(5) "Your Erroneous Zone" by Dr Wayne Dyer. One of the best selling books of all time, it takes you on a journey through all areas of life that are full of errors, and how to get over those obstacles. Worth a re-read in 2019.

I read a handful of David Mamet scripts/plays as well, including (6) "American Buffalo", a dark comedy about a couple of unlikable guys plotting to steal a vintage buffalo nickel... (7) "Shorts", a collection of plays including "Bobby Gould in Hell", "Reunion" and "The Shawl", and finally, a play called (8) "Romance".  All are good, if you are a Mamet fan like I am, but nothing comes close to "Glengarry Glen Ross" (that I read in 2014). And all are full of language, so beware.

Dan Schultz's (9) "Dead Run" opens up with a cowboy in Colorado discovering the body of a dead guy in the wilderness... and then it opens up to recount the 1998 assassination of a local police officer by three gunman who went on a shooting spree, then disappeared into the mountains.  "Dead Run" looks at the (true!) story, the manhunt, the Native American trackers, and the crazy possible cover up. This almost made my Top Ten for the year. 

(10) "Mouseschawitz" is a short book by Angela Lovell giving her time as a cast member, and some of the crazy things that happened, while Chris Stuckmann's (11) "The Film Buff's Bucket List" looks at 50 movies from the 2000s that he fully recommends. 

A little life lesson via the military from Admiral William McRaven's (12) "Make Your Bed", which imparted to me that making the bed in the morning is one of the most important things I can do to start my day -- and I've been doing it ever since. And then I finally read Ernest Cline's (13) "Ready Player One", on the recommendation of many of my friends, including writer Chris Holmes.  I'm not a huge dystopia fan, but after the movie, I figured I'd go ahead. Here we read about Wade, a loner who escapes into this simulation game called The Oasis, where he competes in this years long contest to solve riddles and puzzles in order to finally take over the Oasis. The book is filled to the brim with 70s and 80s pop culture references, including an entire sequence that takes place in the world of Blade Runner...

SIDENOTE... While this movie was being made, so was Blade Runner 2049, and I suspect that is the reason that they didn't allow Blade Runner to be used in the Ready Player One movie. So they made that scene out of The Shining instead, which I honestly preferred. 

Y2J, the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla Chris Jericho is back with (14) "No is a Four Letter Word", which unlike his other books, is much more motivational themed than anecdotes about his wrestling career.  Bill Carter, one of my favorite television authors, gives us (15) "Desperate Networks", which tells the tales of how American Idol was passed over by several networks before ending up on Fox, how LOST was ignored until ABC took a chance, how Survivor came to be and more... this was the abridged version, thus left out of the top ten.

Much of my summer was taken up by the (16-22) Harry Potter series, my 5th time reading through the 7 books, while (23) "Pledged" by Alexandra Robbins (a book that I bought literally 10 years ago, but just got around to it) gives a year long look at what happens in sororities - the drugs, the sex, the hazing, the spanx! Good, but uncomfortable to know this happens on campuses.  Another play, this one by Stephen Adly Guirgus, tells the tale of (24) "The Mother****** With the Hat", a basic tale about a guy who discovers his wife is cheating by finding a strange hat in the bedroom.

Darcey Bell's debut novel is called (25) "A Simple Favor", and is an intriguing tale of Stephanie, who is trying to solve the mystery of what happened to her (sort of) best friend, socialite Emily. Both the book and the 2018 Anna Kendrick/Blake Lively film adaptation are pretty parallel, until the ending. The movie is a little silly, while the book goes off the rails. 

John Grisham fan that I am, I finally read (26) "Skipping Christmas", a non legal story about a family who is trying to avoid the holidays by going on a cruise, but gets sucked back in when some random things force them to do so... I laughed a few times.  Better than the movie.

Go get this book. Seriously. Do the physical
copy, then do the audio, with all of your
lists and charts fill out.
Got my hipster college kid on by re-reading Moliere's (27) "The Misenthrope", and enjoyed it, while I finally read up on some Edgar Allen Poe in a collection called (28) "The Tell Tale Heart and other Stories", which features the title stories, as well as "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Black Cat".  Then, I read another of my favorite authors, Michael Lewis, in a quick memoir of raising a family and kids overseas, in a book called (29)"Home Game".

I read two books on the Golden State Killer, one of which you'll find in my Top Ten, and the other, (30) "Evil Has a Name", written by Paul Holes, Jim Clemente, and Peter McDonnell, was released by Audible. Perhaps its more an "episode" than a book, but I'm counting it. 

And finally, that brings us to (31) "Live Your List", by my friend Ryan Eller. It's sort of a motivational book, sort of a memoir, sort of a comedy book, and kind of a leadership book all wrapped in one. Ryan shares stories from his life, from where he almost died in a car crash and had to learn to walk again, from being detained in Cuba, from dancing with Miss America, and traveling the world. Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely, but I recommend reading it directly over getting the audiobook (which is how I read it, hence its not in my Top Ten).  The audio tells the story, and is narrated by Ryan himself, but there is so much to the book - pictures, charts, places to write your own lists -- that you need to experience the book for yourself and not just listen.  This is one of my goals this year... to re-read this one. 

Onward to the Top Ten Books of 2018, at least, as far as I read. Plus one honorable mention.

Friday, December 21, 2018

christmas song or it ain't

There are two songs that fall right onto the "Is DieHard a Christmas movie?" argument line and can be argued from both sides...

First is Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne", a soft and sentimental (though I could just say "Dan Fogelberg" and you could automatically assume "soft" and "sentimental") tune about a dude who sees an old flame in a grocery store. They agree to meet at a bar to catch up, but can't find anything open because it's New Year's Eve.  So they buy a six pack, sit in her car, drink, laugh and drink a toast to innocence.  Finally, the beer was empty and they run out of things to say, and she gives him a kiss as he gets out and she drives away.
Image result for same old lang syne
There's really nothing in the this song that says New Years or Christmas or anything else, other than its the part of the season where it's easy to reflect upon your life.

They try to reach beyond their emptiness, but neither one knows how.  He even admits in the song "just for a moment I was back in school, and felt that old familiar pain, and as I went to make my way back home, the snow turned into rain..."  So other than a reason for reflection, is this really a Christmas song?

Yes.

So why is this a Christmas song then?  Because it happened for reals.

The women in question is named Jill, and she and Dan were in the Woodruff High Class of '69 in Peoria, Indiana and dated for a while.  She went out for eggnog and he was trying to get whipping cream for his Irish coffee, and the only place open was a convenience store atop Abington Hill (in 2008, the street where you'll find the store, being the source for this song, was designated as "Fogelberg Parkway"). They bought a six pack of beer and sat in her car and talked for two hours.

Some years later, Jill heard the song on the radio as she drove for work and immediately knew it was about her. She kept quiet about it, as she didn't want to disrupt Dan's marriage, and for that reason or othewise, he refused to identify who the girl in the song was.

When Dan Fogelberg passed in 2007 of prostate cancer, she finally spoke up about her identity and the truth in the song. While she corrected the lines "Her eyes were still as blue..." (they are green) and "she said she married her an architect" (her husband was a teacher), she didn't comment on the line "She would have liked to say she loved the man but she didn't want to lie", but while married upon the chance encounter in question, she was divorced when the song was released in 1980.

I love this song and knowing this story makes me love it even more.

(FYI, it became Dan Fogelberg's biggest hit, and was an immediate hit -- he was still writing songs for the album "The Innocent Age" when "Same Old Lang Syne" came out. The wait for the release helped, as three more singles came out and the album sold 2 million copies)

VERDICT:  IT *IS* A CHRISTMAS/HOLIDAY SONG


And that brings us to "Last Christmas" by a little 80s band called Wham!, made up of megastar Andrew Ridgely and his often forgotten sidekick George Michael. Written and produced by Micheal, it was released in 1984 on the flip side of "Everything She Wants" record.  The song details a failed relationship from the perspective of a guy who just can't let go, and the only reference to Christmas in the song itself is the when the title is sung: "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, and the very next day, you gave it away" (he confesses his resolve, however, because THIS year, to save himself some tears, he'll give it someone special)

Unlike "Same Old Lang Syne", George Michael didn't necessarily draw on his own experience, he simply had a revelation while he and Ridgely were visiting Michael's parents  Andrew says that they were chillin', watching some TV, when suddenly George ran upstairs. An hour later, he came back down all excited, asking Andrew to follow him back up.

Related image
They are even dressed in Christmas attire! 
He says, "We went to his old room, the room in which we had spent hours as kids, recording pastiches of radio shows and jingles, the room where he kept a keyboard and something on which to record.  He played me the introduction and the beguiling, wistful chorus melody to 'Last Christmas'. It was a moment of wonder."

So it's a song about heartbreak, it only references Christmas when singing the two word title, and in a whispered "Merry Christmas", which is followed by "I wrapped it up and sent it with a note saying 'I love you', I meant it".  The chick he's pining over has a soul of ice, and so much power over him that not only is he lamenting his year without her, that if she kissed him, "I know you'd fool me again."

However, the video gives it much, much more of a Christmas feel. George and Andrew are at a ski lodge with their bae (baes? bae's? what is the plural of bae? and why do I care?), and they are all about decorating the tree, having a big Christmas dinner, and looking longingly at each other with a glass of wine and a coiffed mullet.

And at the very end of the video, a title card that says "Merry Christmas and Thank You".

VERDICT: IT IS *NOT* A CHRISTMAS SONG

But... this is my post.

On appeal, ruling reversal

NEW VERDICT:  IT *IS* A DELIGHTFUL CHRISTMAS SONG THAT EVERYONE LOVES

Problem Solved.

Friday, November 30, 2018

to campbell, on your 7th birthday

Dear Campbell,

You know, we do this every year. I always start out this letter by exclaiming first how old you are (SEVEN??) and then that we cannot believe you are that old (SEVEN??)... but it's so true. Your Mommy and I are in disbelief that out of nowhere, you are seven years old.

You know what this means, right?  This means that in 3 years, we're going to have to purchase you an adult ticket for Disney World.

But that's then. Let's look at now... and it just struck me last night, as I thought through what I'd write today, that this is the first birthday letter that you could actually probably read out loud.  I mean, you've only been reading maybe a year now, but your teachers tell us that you are on a somewhat advanced reading level -- you are learning words like crazy, you are reading things all the time, you are bending over toilets in public bathrooms, putting your hands on the rim, to read the manufacturers label on the back... so, let's not do that part okay? And even though we are in Whole Foods, that doesn't mean the toilet freshener hanging on the side is there to take off and hold.  Let's move on, kid.

The list of books you've read or enjoy reading is slowly growing, though I think "Me & My Dad" and "Me & My Mom" are your faves right now, as we read them to you every night... but "Jack B. Ninja" is closing in fast, as that's one you also want to hear daily.

As part of your learning and growing, it's been a big year for you!  You graduated from Mitchell's Place in July, reading out loud your favorite thing about MP ("Water play!"... or "wah pay!"), and looking dapper and awesome in your cap and gown. And then, we moved on to public school!

You started Greystone Elementary School in August, and out of myself, your Mommy and you, I think you were the only one who wasn't worried.  We should have known you'd have it taken care of, and you did. You adapted quickly, you made friends, friends who love playing with you, and you are doing amazing right now in school.

Your friend Jack making sure you don't run off during the class picture
I've been fortunate enough to see you around school, like going with you on the bus to the Pumpkin Patch, and to watch the boys -- Ahmed and Jack and Yoto -- all want you to sit with them, and to see the girls, like Lilly and Bella, talk to you and want to read to you before school starts. It's so great and an answer to our prayers!

And you love your teachers -- Ms Carns (because her name is Kim Carns, I still call her "Bette Davis Eyes", though that's a joke you won't get for like, 8 more years or so), and your helper Ms Allie and then Ms Lenoire, and then  the other teachers that I don't know because you say their names and we can't understand it.

As always, the year itself has been interesting.  I usually stay away from politics and will do so here -- by the time you get old enough to not just read, but comprehend these letters, we can discuss, but just know for now Trump is still President, and like any other before him, or that will come after him, he has his hits and misses, and his detractors.  Politics is an ugly game, and frankly, if you never get involved, I'm fine with it.

Like last year, I have paid little attention to the music scene... in fact, I just looked at the Billboard Top 100 charts for this week, right now in 2018, and I see the top songs are "Thank U, Next" by Ariana Grande, "Sicko Mode" by Travis Scott, "Happier" by Marshmello & Bastille, "Without Me" by Halsey, and "Lucid Dreams" by Juice WRLD... out of six artists mentioned, I have only heard of three of them, and am only familiar with one of those songs.  Music has passed me by, kid, as I'm still stuck jamming to "Exes & Ohs" by Elle King from a few years ago, which might be the last really good song that was released.

I am convinced that if you want a record deal and to make a lot of money as a musical artist, you can do so, because Cardi B is rich, and this guy named Mo Bamba has a hit called "Shack Wes", and its legit one of the most excruciating pieces of crap to listen to that I've ever heard. Then again, you may like it, who knows. When you are ready, we'll pop in some Hootie & the Blowfish.

For now, though, I think your own personal top five, as listed by songs that you sing over and over and over, are "Wheels on the Bus"... well, maybe top one. You have learned "Jesus Loves Me", and "Glory in the Highest", the latter for the kid's performance at the choir event coming up at church, but you do love you some "Wheels on the Bus".

And I do love that you are really recognizing church as the place to be, because you love being around Kingdom Kids, especially with Ms Lisa when she helps you. And for someone who struggles with saying the letter "L", you manage "Valleydale" okay -- "VAH AH DAYH".

Your favorite toys this year have undoubtedly been your school bus and your airplane, as you love Southwest Airlines so much that you watch airplane videos on YouTube... and you type in "SOUTHWEST" and "TERMINAL" in the search bar to find them.  It's crazy, and funny, and super smart.

And for whatever reason, you watch elevator videos. Like, you watch videos of people walking on and off elevators.  Your Mommy remarked to me, "Why do people film... elevators? That's so weird." Quite simply, people film everything. And yes, its weird.

My fave movies of the year included a documentary called "Won't You Be My Neighbor", about a man named Mr Rogers, who I can only hope you will be able to watch one day, and Tom Cruise still doing his thing in "Mission Impossible: Fallout", plus another superhero movie called "Avengers: Infinity War". I look forward to watching superhero movies with you, as well as Star Wars stuff (like "Solo" which came out in May of this year)... but your movie jam this year has definitely been "Inside Out".
Learning to float with Coach Mary

The old faves have resurfaced, like "Cars 2" and "Rio 2" and "Frozen", but "Inside Out" has been a daily mainstay in our home for months, which is cool because I think you are learning about Sadness and Joy and other emotions, maybe putting names to your feelings, which is important so you'll know how you are doing.

We had our season passes to Alabama Splash Adventure and went several times, and you loved it! Don't worry, we'll go back next year too. And good thing, because we need to keep working on your swimming. You had Ms Keri last summer, but this year, you got to work with Coach Mary... you didn't like it at first, but it was so cool that by the end of the week, you were getting rings off the bottom of the pool, and jumping into the water, and swimming around like a little fish. So proud of you!!

And the talking... my goodness, are you a chatter box. I can barely remember a time when we were worried you'd never talk, but here you are. Of course, admittedly, our worry now is that you won't be able to carry on a conversation with us, instead speaking in just a word here or there, but I have no doubt that will come in time too. Everything about your development has come in time, and that's been a blessing.

Oh, how much do you love your Mommy. SO MUCH.
You are still in piano, now with Mrs Alaina and Mr Mark, both of which you like very much, and are playing songs like "Old McDonald" and "Twinkle Twinkle", and even though you graduated, we still visit Mitchell's Place twice per week for ABA therapy.  And you get to work with Jordan and Audrey, and see your friend Piper!

Finally, some of the "firsts" for you... your very first trip to Vulcan... your first cave and waterfall (Rock City in Chattanooga)... your first Monster Truck (the Touch a Truck event)... your first bowling (you bowled like, an 88!)... your first traveling carnival (the power went out while we were atop the ferris wheel)... your first game of catch with a baseball and glove (thank you Ethan Bryan!)... 

Okay, I'll wrap this up now, as these letters might get longer and longer every year, and I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out... but know that we love you so, so much, Campbell.  Everyone does. Your Pops and GG, and your aunts and uncles, and your Granny Jan, and Aunt Becky and your friends and their parents too... you are more popular at 7 then I ever was at like, 10. You're doing a great job.

Last year's letter talked about "Respect".  This year, I want to teach you about "Truth".  Truth is very important because honesty is a huge part of your character, of who you are, and of who people think you are. Tell the Truth.

See, there are many people out there who don't. Maybe they are trying to hide something small, or something big, maybe they are trying to hurt someone else on purpose, or make someone else fail by not telling the truth, and that will happen... and maybe someday, someone will lie about you to hurt you.  You stick with the truth. You stick with what's right. You stick with the facts, whether you are talking to your mom and myself, or your friends, or your teachers, or even strangers, you stay on the side of right, and it will be okay.

Remember, the Bible is Truth. We haven't really dug into that yet, but we will soon. We want you to understand what Jesus says about love and compassion and that sometimes those things means saying things people don't want to hear -- but in the end, Truth will always win out. And be Respectful as you stay Truthful.

You'll always have challenges that other kids won't have. But keep your faith in Him and it will work out.

We love you, son. And no, you cannot have your iPad until 6pm, so stop asking.

With Love,
Daddy

to campbell, on your 6th birthday
to campbell, on your 5th birthday
to campbell, on your 4th birthday
to campbell, on your 3rd birthday
to campbell, on your 2nd birthday
to campbell, on your 1st birthday

Heading to the doctor and getting the diagnosis

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